Sept. 12, 1891 – To Bishop of Kingston ON from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Kingston ON

House of Providence, Kingston
Sept. 12, 1891
James Vincent Cleary, Archbishop of Kingston.
My Lord Archbishop,

On the part of myself and Community I welcome you home from your Pastoral Visitation of the rural mission. We are in great trouble by reason of the receipt of an extraordinary letter from the Rt. Rev. Bishop of Springfield, Mass., which I send to Your Grace, for your perusal and for your direction of us in reference to it. We will be particularly thankful if your Grace, as our ecclesiastical Superior and Ordinary, will have the goodness to inform us:

1. Does the fact of the Bishop of Springfield having petitioned the Holy See for the withdrawal of the Sisters in our branch-house at Holyoke from this, their Mother-house, absolve those Sisters from their religious obligations as professed members of this diocesan Institute of the Sisters of Charity in Kingston, and from the duty of obedience to its Superior General, which the Constitutions of our Order demand of them, and they promised and sacredly vowed to yield to their religious Superior for the time being and to the Archbishop of Kingston, their ecclesiastical Superior?

2. Does the Bishop of Springfield possess, by virtue of the general Law of the Church or any local ecclesiastical law of the United States, the power and right to absolve our Sisters, temporarily resident in his diocese, from their obligation to this diocesan Institute in Kingston, in which they made their religious profession; or can he dispense them, or effectually declare them dispensed from their vow of obedience without reference to the Archbishop of Kingston, and without special powers from the Holy See?

3. Are our Sisters sent by us temporarily to Holyoke and revocable by us at any time as our Chapter may determine, anywise or in any degree made independent of us and of our authority by the inauspicious announcement of the Bishop of Springfield made to them, young and old, in full assembly, that their religious profession in this Institute and their vow of obedience do not now bind them to comply with our directions, and that “they must not believe any one who should tell them it is sinful to resist our authority”?

4. Does the regulation recently made by our Chapter, in accordance with the regular practice of changing the Sisters’ places at this season of the year for the better administration of the Institute hold good and effective, with power to bind the consciences of the Sisters under pain of disobedience and infidelity to their vow, so long as the Holy See shall not have decreed their Separation from this Diocesan Institute in Kingston?

In fine, I beg Your Grace to direct me how to act under the present most painful circumstances. It grieves me to be under the necessity of giving trouble to your Grace in this, your busiest season of Pastoral work; but we are fully confident you will cheerfully come to our assistance by your fatherly advice in this our time of sorest trial, as upon all former occasions of difficulty.

I most humbly ask your Episcopal blessing upon myself and the Community, and remain Your Grace's most humble & devoted child in Christ
Mother Mary Edward, Superior General, Sisters of Charity
Notes: Another three copies of this letter exists as handwritten individual copies. 105.6-C, Mother Mary Edward General Superior sous-fonds, Correspondence series, Letter September 12, 1891.
Source: 407-409-A, General Secretary Fonds, Annals of the Congregation/Generalate series, Volume 1861-1892, pp. 205-206, Archives, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.
Catherine McKinley’s Letters

This letter is part of a large database of correspondence written by and to Catherine McKinley, who is considered one of the founders of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. As a Sister of Providence she was known by her religious name Mother Mary Edward.

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